Why we need to put the humans back into tech recruitment

IT search is dominated by metrics and AI filters. It's time to look beyond CVs and the person
Ben Johnson
Group of humans

It is an uncomfortable truth but the recruitment of senior digital business leadership – those CIOs, IT directors, enterprise architects and programme leaders that control the ebb and flow of the $731bn market of digital transformation – is no longer fit for purpose.

A history of recruitment being approached as sales-based opportunism, and a dependence on the technology aimed at managing high volumes of entry-level roles, has led to a commoditisation of the recruitment of senior technology leaders.

In short, the field has become conditioned on CV harvesting, keywords and AI filters.

This creates two challenges: firstly the technology does not enable foresight of how a business, especially an enterprise, can develop a long-term, complex, yet agile and effective digital business operation.

Secondly there has been a loss of the human thinking that can make intuitive links and even the occasional leap of faith that can drastically improve - or shorten - a recruitment process.

It is time to make humans fashionable again.

The value of instinct

To make the business of technology better, we need less technology in this situation.

We need to re-install that most human of traits – pragmatic intuition: the unique intersection of instinct and intelligence, based on expertise. An ability to assess aptitude based on relevant, salient experience.

This is a direct response to so much of the success of senior technology leadership depending on aligning candidate personality to organisational culture, the ‘fit’ of a team, and the ability to develop strong relationships.

Businesses need to overcome the idea that this more personal approach does not work at scale or for large organisations. The idea that human assessments of a personality and personal history can only work ‘one to one’ or is solely the final stage in recruitment process, is wrong.

In fact, the ‘more human’ the recruitment process for these roles, typically the less time is spent on the project, the better the quality of candidates and the more diverse the company becomes.

Redeeming recruitment consultancy

This begins with reclaiming the ‘consultancy’ in recruitment consultancy. The only way to do that is to deploy the experience of those business leaders who have actually been there and done it, when it comes to digital transformation.

The Special Forces of the military have a great model here – at the end of all selection courses is a ‘catch all’ phase where candidates are assessed on if they fit with the existing members of the unit. It is one part chemistry match, one part final check.

When applied to senior management, this model de-risks recruitment. The best way to ensure the organisation does not hire the wrong person – which in turn may delay massive digital transformation plans – is to set the bar with instinct born of the experience of those who have successfully done, what the candidate is being hired to do.

Hundreds of CVs whittled down to single figures because of inflexible, uninformed keywords does not do the same thing. At this level, de-risking is a qualitative exercise.

Of course, this necessitates, almost immediately, going outside of an organisation to find the people that can assess candidates in this way. We have been pulled in to source an entire team of senior, experienced architects and programme managers for one client, and have found a head of analytics in a week, for another client that had been searching for eight months.

When it comes to digital business, it is time to reclaim recruitment from the technology that has been let loose upon the desperate need for senior leadership. A grounding in profoundly human approaches that forgoes the commodity approach is now what is needed.

Written by
Ben Johnson
CEO, BML Digital
March 6, 2023